The Supreme Court, on February 18, allowed the Andhra Pradesh government to hold elections to urban local bodies and panchayats as per the existing reservation quotas. In an interim order, a division bench of the court said that the state government, for the time being, could continue with the total 60.5 per cent reservation for the backward classes, Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST).
The court was considering the appeals filed by the state government and others against an order passed by the Andhra Pradesh high court. The high court on September 4 last year had held that the total reservation should not exceed 50 per cent. The high court ordered that the state government should bring down the quota for backward classes so that the total reservation comes down to 50 per cent. The high court’s stance was that the total reservation in the local bodies cannot exceed 50 per cent as per a directive issued by the Supreme Court in May 2010.
Total 60.5 %
Backward classes 34%
Scheduled Castes 18.3%
Scheduled Tribes: 8.25%
Earlier, in June 2011, a day after the State Election Commission announced elections to local bodies, the high court, considering a public interest petition, had stayed the elections and suspended a government order to maintain the status quo in the reservation percentage.
This had put the state government in a fix. Since 1994, the state government has providing 34 per cent reservation to backward classes, 18.3 per cent to SCs and 8.25 per cent to STs (total 60.5 percent)
The term of the urban local bodies had ended in September 2010 and that of Panchayati Raj institutions in July 2011. In the absence of the elected councils, special officers appointed by the state government have been taking care of the administration of the local bodies. The state has 21,676 gram panchayats, 16,133 block panchayats (Mandal Parishad Territorial Constituency) and 1,097 district panchayats (Zilla Parishad Territorial Constituency), 108 municipalities and 16 municipal corporations. The polls were caught up in the legal battle.
Due to delay in conducting the elections to the local bodies, the state has failed in securing arounsd Rs 3,000 crore Central grants from the 13th Finance Commission during the current financial year. The state has also lost around Rs 1,000 crore of the Central grant meant for the Panchayati Raj institutions in the last financial year.
The opposition parties in the state have been accusing the Congress-led government of intentionally postponing the elections for fear of adverse outcome. Now that the apex court has given the go ahead for the polls, Chief minister Kiran Kumar Reddy has directed the concerned departments to be ready at the earliest. The state election commissioner P Ramakant Reddy has stated that his department is fully prepared for the polls. The elections will be held as per 2001 population figures.
Though the apex court has given the nod for holding polls, it has said it would take a final decision on the issue of the percentage of reservation in the local bodies’ elections in its final judgement.
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